The Powerball jackpot, from the last time I checked, is at over $1.3 billion. I’m sure we can all agree that a sum like that could buy an exorbitant amount of jellybeans.
The skyrocketing jackpot has also led to some good-hearted people to begin passing around memes on social media, using math to show how $1.3 billion could help everyone in the United States and not just one lucky person who may end up investing all of his or her money in a Ponzi scheme. The idea is that $1.3 billion, when split between everyone in the United States, comes out to be $4.33 million.
It’s a nice sentiment. “Poverty solved.” Of course, that doesn’t account for the rest of the world, but one country at a time, please.
Unfortunately, the math doesn’t work for this meme. In reality, $1.3 billion divided by 300 million equals $4.33, which isn’t exactly a poverty-ending sum for Americans.
But even that math is incorrect. The first thing we have to do to the $1.3 million jackpot is trim off the federal tax of about 39.6%, which gives us a still hefty $785.2 million. Then there are the state and local taxes. I’m in New York, so we would get the higher-end 15%, which would leave us with $667.42 million.
And then comes the big hit: a U.S. population of around 318.9 million. Divide $667.42 million by 318.9 million, and you get around $2.09.
And that, readers, is why I got beat up in high school.